By making some changes to your daily routine and focus, you can achieve more from a working day
They say ‘time is money’ and that’s especially true for business owners. Finding the best use of your time and working according to your list of priorities is a challenge faced by most entrepreneurs. Whatever business you run, your days are spent flicking between your role as a visionary leader and a frontline employee. Very often, you’ve got no choice but to switch between the two roles at a moment’s notice. When it comes to the end of the day, can you say that you’ve assigned enough time to manage the strategic direction of the business?
As the co-owner of The Alternative Board, I’m delighted to give SME owners the chance to be part of an advisory board with like-minded people, not to mention give them access to business coaching and a suite of exclusive business tools. It’s a franchise business, and there are boards across the country that are run by franchise owners with vast experience in running successful businesses. They often see their board members frustrated at finding themselves doing tasks that could be done by others.
Whether it’s working on the website, filling in reports or running errands, several responsibilities could be done by a less-expensive resource, but it’s often tempting to just press ahead and do it yourself.
To be a true master of time management doesn’t have to mean doing anything drastic. By making some changes to your daily routine and focus, you can achieve more from a working day.
Here are my top 10 tricks to make the most of your time as a business owner, tried and tested by our members over the years:
1. Schedule your day around your focus
When do you have the bandwidth to focus on aspects of your workload which particularly need attention? Whether you’re the most productive first thing in the morning or late at night, find that time and reserve it! If you can, avoid scheduling any meetings during that period to ensure that it stays as the time for important tasks.
2. Plan for disruptions
Customer issues, employee questions and other minor emergencies are an inevitable part of every business owner’s day. Planning ‘disruption time’ gives you a more realistic outlook on how much work you can get through. But equally, don’t be afraid to avoid disruptions as much as possible, for example by asking employees not to contact you at certain times of the day.
3. Find your priorities
The day-to-day priorities of running a business aren’t always compatible with the wider view a business owner must keep in mind. Business owners shouldn’t forget about higher-level tasks such as marketing, strategic planning and product/service developments. What new opportunities could come about if you spent significant time in these areas? If you made these the priorities for your time, how would your business grow?
4. Batch phone calls
Rather than let yourself get interrupted throughout the day, force yourself to return phone calls only at appointed times. You can set priorities by creating a voicemail that tells callers when they can expect a response.
5. Make email work for you
Email is a powerful business tool, but it also tops the list of time wasters for business owners. There are a couple of tricks that stop your inbox from being a hindrance. You can turn email notifications off, organise emails into folders according to various projects, and automatically forward certain emails to colleagues. That means you can process emails at the time that is most convenient to you, and not compromise on the tasks you set out to achieve in the day.
6. Using available tools
Too often, business owners overlook easily accessible tools in search of a silver bullet to improve productivity. Don’t forget about the technology on a smartphone that can be leveraged to manage your time more effectively. For example, voice recognition tools can be used to text and answer emails more rapidly. It prevents you from getting bogged down in admin.
7. Write it all down
It might feel natural to rely on memory to store repetitive procedures, systems and training materials. But this often means that only you can carry out certain tasks and make decisions. If you write down steps that need to be taken, you can hand over responsibilities to colleagues from time to time and focus on priorities.
8. Learn to let go
Many business owners are guilty of delegating and then micromanaging a task. It’s understandable since it could come from the fear of losing control and seeing it fail if somebody else carries it out. But the truth is that not letting go could impact the health of the business, whether that’s through employees not progressing their own skills, or simply you not spending enough time on important tasks. Have faith in your employees once they’re trained.
9. Find focus with one simple question
Sometimes it’s essential to take a step back and assess whether you’re focusing on the most important task. Instead of letting yourself get distracted by day-to-day work, consider what you need to do to achieve your objectives. You can do that by asking the question ‘Is what I am working on the most important priority?’
10. Keep the target small and focused
Trying to achieve several goals at once only means being less efficient. Transitioning from one task to another so frequently will take more time than if you just have one or two projects on the go. It will give you a greater sense of accomplishment in completing tasks regularly and inspire you to move on to the next challenge.
Our members have seen such impressive business growth thanks to joining their local board, and there’s no doubt that becoming better at time management has played a part. In fact, nearly two thirds (62 per cent) say that their business’ profit has increased since joining The Alternative Board. But just as crucially, becoming a master at time management has given them a better quality of life. Again, nearly two thirds (64 per cent) say that they now have a better work-life balance.
So often I see members saying that they spend too much time fighting fires. It only means that not enough attention is paid to taking the business to new heights. But by changing your mindset, refocusing your responsibilities, and channelling your team and their skills, you can make the best of the 24 hours in the day.
Mags Fuller is co-owner of The Alternative Board.